American CO2 Emissions are Falling

The just released U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) June Energy Report contains data which calls “The most underreported recent environmental story”, especially for for 2012 based on the first three months of the year.

Since the peak year of 2007, American annual energy CO2 emissions are down by a remarkable16 percent (energy constitutes almost all net carbon dioxide emissions). Emissions rates are back to the levels of 1990.

One reason is that the downturn has dampened economic output and energy use. Nevertheless despite low growth the U.S economy is somewhat larger now than it was in 2007. Another explanation is that Coal is being replaced by Natural Gas and to a lesser extent by Renewable Energy.

New technology introduced by private exploration companies including horizontal drilling and “fracking” has dramatically increased American Natural Gas production, increasing 30% since 2007. Like Coal Natural Gas is a fossil fuel, but releases only about half as much CO2 per unit of energy produced.

In six years Natural Gas has gone from 22 percent to 31 percent of American Energy use, with a corresponding decline of Coal. Renewable energy has increased from 7 percent to 9 percent of total consumption.

Going directly from Coal-based electricity production to renewable energy is not realistic given the state of technology and cost. However replacing coal with Natural Gas as a first step gets you half the way.

Energy consumption per unit of GDP produced is half what it was a generation ago and continues to decline.

Despite the fact that the U.S has not signed the Kyoto-protocol, carbon dioxide emissions have been cut thanks to new technology and private enterprise. The U.S and Europe are no longer driving the increase in CO2 emissions. Meanwhile Chinese emissions are still rising.

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About Tino Sanandaji 39 Articles

Tino Sanandaji is a 29 year old PhD student in Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and the Chief Economist of the free-market think tank Captus.

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